May 10, 2005

A day in the life of a stressed out linguist

why am I so stressed?

today was a normal day. Normal, yet I still ended up feeling completely exhausted, stressed and overworked by the end of it. It’s no good. I need to do something about this because it’s making me unhappy, affecting my work and worst of all, I don’t know why really…

So in an attempt to find out why I’m getting so stressed, I’m gonna try to recount my day in step-by-step detail to figure out what happened, why it stressed me out and what I can do about it…

firstly, I didn’t go to sleep til 12:30am last night, so not having enough sleep isn’t going to help me do my job in a relaxed manner…

7:45am: woke up… had slept in (sposed to start work at 8am).
8:15am: finished yesterday’s washing up, ate my weet-bix, started reading my favourite ever book which I’ve just rediscovered.
8:30am: first phone call. mami N called and asked me to pick her up to go to the police station to check on a family member who was locked up during the night
8:45am: showered, dressed, packed my bag and I’m ready to go
9:00am: picked up mami N, went to police station. Filled in yesterdays timesheets while I waited.
9:15am: dropped mami N back at her camp, went to batchelor centre to get ready for the day
9:30am: chatted to mari A and her husband about language matters, including getting properly resourced language programs up and running, like they have at numbulwar. Had a cup of tea. Mari T arrived in the meantime.
9:45am: took mari A in the truck to look for someone. Picked up anti F on the way back, couldn’t find the person mari A was looking for, dropped them back at Batchelor.
10:00am: drove around to look for the language centre mob. Picked up baba G, mami N, went to look for mari T’s sister to get her involved in language centre work.
10:15am: back at Batchelor. Mari T started working on the Ritharrngu body parts book. I sat with his sister and explained some of the details of the language program to her. Baba G working on the Marra body parts book. Mami N helping him.
10:30am: Mami R and my barn-ga R and her baby arrive. I photocopy the body parts book for them so they can work on the Rembarrnga version. Mari t’s sister still looking at the materials, everyone else working on body parts books.
10:45am: Sit with barn-ga R and mami R. Show barn-ga R about writing down Rembarrnga and using the dictionary and the structure of the body parts book. Assist her and mami R with the Rembarrnga body parts book.
11:00am: still working with all this mob on body parts book.
11:15am: still going.
11:30am: check over baba G’s Marra body parts book. We discuss it and mami N talks about other teaching ideas. Listen to some audio recordings of the text of the book
11:45am: help barn-ga R add in another page to their book.
12:00pm: lunchtime. (oh my god, I get a lunchtime!). Drop Mami N and baba G back at their camps. Go to shop, buy my lunch and some groceries.
12:15pm: sit on a step in a quiet place and eat my lunch: one and a half sandwiches, juice and iced coffee. close my eyes and try and relax and clear my mind a little. find I am just tired and wired.
12:30pm: finished lunch. sitting quietly.
12:45pm: drive back to language centre, drop off groceries, go to Batchelor, quickly talk to barn-ga E about filming some of the Ngandi workshop.
1:00pm: print out two of our little storybooks to give to the visiting tutors from Numbulwar.
1:15pm: briefly talk to uncle E about making a Ngandi body parts book. Mami R and barn-ga R ask me to drive them to bottom camp to get a babysitter for the baby. We pick her up and I drop them all of at their camp.
1:30pm: Back to Batchelor. Barn-ga B comes for a ride while I pick up baba G. We also find uncle E and mari T and go back to Batchelor.
1:45pm: move our gear from Batchelor back next door to Language Centre.
2:00pm: sit down with barn-ga R and show her how to use the computer to make the body parts book, showing her how to change the font and font size, how to make the special letter ‘œ’, how to move the cursor around etc.
2:15pm: still supervising barn-ga R
2:30pm: talk to baba G about the Marra book. We transcribe a sentence from the body parts audio.
2:45pm: help barn-ga R print out the Rembarrnga book.
3:00pm: suggest making language materials to put up at the shop. set up the computer so Baba G can do the Marra one.
3:15pm: help mami R and barn-ga R add another page to the Rembarrnga book
3:30pm: help baba G finish his Marra sheet. help Barn-ga print out the final draft of their book
3:45pm: print out baba G’s work. adapt it into Rembarrnga. show barn-ga R how to use the laptop.
4:00pm: adapt the same worksheet into Wagilak with mari T, print it out. Drive to the office with mari T, baba G and barn-ga B to check the mail.
4:15pm: checked mail. waiting.
4:30pm: drive back with mari T, barn-ga B, anti F and baba G. Drop them home. Take anti F to the ranger office to talk to K.
4:45pm: wait for K, briefly meet woman from ICC (ex-atsic) and ask about ‘Shared Responsibility Agreements’ that are sposed to be the future for communities but so far language centre hasn’t heard a single thing about.
5:00pm: drop anti F at her camp. go back to language centre.
5:15pm: sit down with mami N and look at her university work. She ‘informed’ me today that I’m her tutor now. try and listen and find out what’s going on, but I’m too buggered and can’t listen anymore.
5:30pm: still trying to listen. fax goes off. replace fax cartridge and wait for fax to come through.
5:45pm: drop mami N home and go back to language centre.
6:00pm: change into shorts, ready for a bike ride. girl from across the road arrives asking if she can do cd-burning on my laptop. ‘maybe later’, ai bin la.
6:15pm: K arrives. I decide to water the garden while I chat to her.
6:30pm: bike ride to the Numbulwar turnoff and back. stop halfway and lay in the middle of the road trying to work out why I’m so stressed and what to do about it. Decide to try write this blog entry and see if anything comes out of it.
6:45pm: go to the shop for a colddrink. go back to language centre
7:00pm: start writing this blog entry.
7:32pm: that is the time right now!

Well, it’s clear that I’m busy, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too unmanageable. The factor that doesn’t come through on the above is that all this is happening in a cultural context that isn’t my own and in languages that aren’t my own. That makes all of the above just that little bit harder and demands that little bit more effort.

But the other thing that comes through for me about the above is that it’s just a relentless stream of task after task. I never get a chance to spend maybe a half hour or hour just doing one thing and I never get to do anything on my own.

I don’t know… if anyone’s still reading this, what do you think? Am a being a wuss and stressing out for no reason. Or am I actually really busy and need to take it easy. I know I do tend to stress more than the average person (as does everyone in my family!)… so am I stressing for no reason and need to change my perceptions or am I justified in feeling so run down…

All I know is… 51 days til I’m on holidays!


bulanjan said...

Both, Greggie. It *is* relentless, no doubt. You (and I and probably every other munanga in the same situation) get stressed out by that.

The tricky thing is how to not be 'the one in control' yet still 'have *some* control', to prevent you getting overwhelmed. Can you set some boundaries (easier said than done, I know!) like: from 12-1 I have lunch and THAT'S IT! No phone, no rides, nothing?

bulanjan said...

And how about 'maybe tomorrow' instead of 'maybe later' with requests after 4/5pm?

Jodie said...

Hi Greg. I'm a friend of Rob Chapman's from Sydney- he put me onto your blog- which I've been really enjoying. If you don't mind me offering advice as a total stranger! - its seems as though the stress might be partly from the experience of being constantly at the mercy of other people's demands and not feeling in control of what you do with your day. I have a similar experience in my work at a trade union, and have come to think its all about my attitude, because there's nothing else I can change!

Catalin said...

Personally, I'd find all that driving around stressful, but I don't love driving and errandy driving is the worst.

When you say you feel 'stressed' what does it mean? Do you feel worried that you can't get things done that you want to get done? Worried that things won't be done as well as you want them to? Worried that you'll let people down somehow? Or do you feel vaguely angry or resentful, but you're not sure what about?

I think it might be worth your while to try to figure out *what* you're feeling; then you can figure out why and what to do about it.

Sometimes I feel bad--stressed out, angry, sad, anxious--and don't know why. I will find a place to lie down quietly and run through various possibilities in my mind (or out loud with a trusted friend!). Certain things will make my heart race just thinking about them and that tells me that that is probably a/the source of my bad feelings. Other ideas may seem--intellectually--like a likely cause of stress, but if thinking about it doesn't raise my stress levels, then I suspect that it's a red herring.

Does any of this make sense? It's just that I often can convince my mind of something that isn't really in tune with my actual feelings. If you think you might be like that too, then try my technique. Focus on your physical and emotional responses to different thoughts and see how those respones change.

Wamut said...

thanks for your comments you guys. they were a good help. thanks especially for your advice catalin - lotsa good food for thought there.

i kinda cracked it yesterday.. i'll probly blog about it more elsewhere, but i think me and everyone i work with realised i was getting pushed too far (both by myself and by this mob here). so i think things have eased a bit in response... we're all learning what my limits are and they've been exceeded lately.

but anyway, i'll talk about that more elsewhere. thanks again guys for your comments.